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August 20, 2014


Dear Washingtonians:

There is a palpable lack of excitement over the upcoming general election in November. How are we going to encourage DC votes to come out to vote, when they don’t see that any of the leading candidates for any office are going to make any real difference in their lives? The laughably misnamed Los Angeles Ethics Commission has proposed enrolling voters in a lottery with cash prizes to get people to participate in elections (David Zahniser, “Panel Wants LA to Look at Using Prizes to Boost Voter Turnout,” Los Angeles Times, A few years ago, DC experimented with paying children to attend schools and get good grades. Isn’t paying adults to perform their civic duties a logical next step? (If it isn’t obvious, the sarcasm tag should be added here.)


Colbert King wrote a very positive column about mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz, “Carol Schwartz Proves She’s No Empty Suit,” http://tinyurlcom/k8ts62d, but the Washington Post showed its bias in the race by the skeptical title it gave to the article in the print edition, “Carol Schwartz Is Back in the Race. But Why?” Carol’s handicaps in the mayoral election are not just the bias of the Post and the overwhelming Democratic leaning of Washington voters, but also the ignorance of millennial voters who not only don’t know her long history of positive contributions to DC politics, but also think that her having a long history is itself a negative.


In the last issue of themail (August 13), in my piece on “Optimism,” I wrote: “People fear that their childrens’ lives will not be better than theirs for a simple reason: it is very likely that they won’t be, and our political and academic class seems to be satisfied, if not actually pleased, with that prospect. Economically, for the past century, Americans aspired to own their own homes, preferably with yards and with a bedroom for each child. They aspired to own an automobile. Politicians encouraged them, and worked through laws and tax policies to help people achieve their aspirations. Now politicians and ‘thought leaders’ tell people their aspirations and hopes are impractical, unrealistic, and bad for the earth, and that they should be satisfied with small apartments not large enough to accommodate families and with bicycles and buses for transportation. Who wouldn’t be discouraged?”

On August 15, Joel Kotkin seconded and emphasized the same point in an article about how “The People Designing Your Cities Don’t Care What You Want; They’re Planning for Hipsters,” Kotkin argues that, “Overlooked, or even disdained, is what most middle-class residents of the metropolis actually want: home ownership, rapid access to employment throughout the metropolitan area, good schools and ‘human scale’ neighborhoods.” Two articles by Michael Neibauer in the Washington Business Journal about SB Urban Development’s Blagden Alley proposal illustrate the point further. SB Urban plans to build a development of 125 microapartments that will be about 350 sq. ft. each, with no parking. The rent on these apartments is likely to be in the same range as SB Urban’s Patterson Mansion project in Dupont Circle — $2,500 to $3,000 a month, and This doesn’t sound to me like the fulfillment of the American dream, or even the first step on the ladder.

Gary Imhoff


Ferguson, Missouri — Could It Happen Here?
Dorothy Brizill,

As the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, has unfolded over the past two weeks, following the police shooting death of Michael Brown, the reaction of many in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, who have closely followed the news accounts of the protest demonstrations and looting, ranges from disbelief to anger. There are many people who are fairly dismissive of the situation in Ferguson, a small suburban city outside of St. Louis, believing that it could never happen here, in the DC metropolitan area.

While I sincerely hope that no other American city ever experiences a Ferguson, I am not that confident, largely because it has been demonstrated that all that is needed is a single incident, like the shooting of a minority youth, to spark and ignite a tense, volatile situation in any community. Moreover, many of the same factors that contributed to the situation in Ferguson are also present in the DC metropolitan area, including high levels of poverty and unemployment, bad relations between the police and minority communities, and racial tensions between blacks and whites (and among Hispanics, blacks, and whites, as in the 1991 Mt. Pleasant riots). The biggest thing that could make a difference between Ferguson and the DC metropolitan area is how authorities in DC would respond to similar circumstances of demonstrations and looting.

Because Washington, DC, is the nation’s capital, area police departments are well trained, equipped, and experienced in responding to large demonstrations. Moreover, since the early 1990’s, community policing, which is premised on improved communications between the police and the community, has been the operating model for all police departments in the metropolitan area

What do you think? Could Ferguson happen here? If it could, what do we need to do to prevent it, and how do we go about addressing the underlying problems and issues?


About Second Amendment Rights
Jack McKay,

Perhaps a couple of quotes from Wikipedia will clarify the state of so-called Second Amendment rights “to keep and bear arms.” First, concerning the Heller decision (2008): “District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), was a landmark case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to federal enclaves and protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The decision did not address the question of whether the Second Amendment extends beyond federal enclaves to the states, which was addressed later by McDonald v. Chicago (2010). It was the first Supreme Court case to decide whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.”

Second, the Chicago decision asserting, for the first time, that the Second Amendment applied to the states, as well as to the Federal Government: “McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that determined whether the Second Amendment applies to the individual states. The Court held that the right of an individual to ‘keep and bear arms’ protected by the Second Amendment is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applies to the states.”

In short, only since 2010 has the right to “keep and bear arms” been a Constitutional right of individuals, guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Our right of democratic self-government goes back lots further than that.

[In his last posting on Second Amendment rights, Jack took a states rights position, that the states could nullify portions of the Constitution with which they disagreed. This posting presents a less extreme position, that the rights asserted in the Bill of Rights only apply to the federal government, and not to the states, until and unless the Supreme Court has ruled on any specific portion of the Bill of Rights. Opponents of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights have been fighting on this grounds for a long time. If we accept Jack’s definition of when a right actually begins to exist, Americans didn’t have freedom of the speech until 1925, freedom of the press until 1931, or free exercise of religion until 1940 (see Wikipedia’s article on “Incorporation of the Bill of Rights”). Obviously, I disagree. Supreme Court decisions on individual portions of the Bill of Rights mark when Americans are able to enforce their rights against state and local authorities who abridge them, not when those rights began to exist. — Gary Imhoff]


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